The Supreme People's Procuratorate said on Wednesday it would deepen coordination with various departments to protect the interests of the elderly and severely penalize fraudsters targeting them.
Procuratorates across the country approved the arrest of 7,594 people and filed public lawsuits against another 8,516 people amid a nationwide campaign to fight fraud targeting the elderly from April to the end of September, according to the SPP.
Procuratorates nationwide will work closely with other departments to deepen the crackdown and protect the elderly, said Zhang Zhijie, a senior official from the SPP's procuratorial committee, on Wednesday.
Elderly care is of major concern in the country, given that China had 267 million people over the age of 60 by the end of 2021, accounting for 18.9 percent of its population. Criminals have used different guises to cheat the elderly, bringing great harm to them and social stability, according to the SPP.
To eliminate the breeding ground for such crimes and protect the legitimate interests of the elderly, China launched a six-month nationwide special campaign in April.
Zhang said suspects often used fraud in the name of engaging in the elderly care industry, providing "elderly care services", investing in "old-age care projects" or selling "elderly care products".
The SPP supervised the handling of several major cases and urged prosecutors to recommend severe punishment for ringleaders of criminal groups and give mandatory leniency to those who only commit minor crimes, voluntarily confess their crimes and actively return illegal gains, he said.
"Local procuratorates also initiated public interest litigation to improve the protection of the personal information of the elderly, against misguiding advertisements for healthcare products, and the protection of pensions and insurance," he added.
Procuratorates have also made full use of public interest litigation, public hearings and procuratorial suggestions to help industries' administrative departments rectify problems, he said.
In one case released by the SPP, fraudsters in Xiamen, Fujian province, colluded with a travel agency to attract elderly tourists with "extremely low-priced tours" during which they were forced to buy shoddy jade products, which were tagged with prices many times higher than the actual purchase price. The activity occurred from December 2020 to June 2021, and involved sums of money reaching about 7 million yuan ($965,000).
The salespeople falsely advertised the popularity of the jewelry and claimed the jade was collectible and will increase in value, and used "special" prices to lure the elderly to buy the products. Those who had no intention to buy or questioned the price and quality of the products were asked to leave the store to ensure the cheating was not interrupted.
In July 2022, the ringleader surnamed Chen was sentenced to 10 years and 4 months in prison for fraud, and was fined 150,000 yuan. Another 20 people involved were sentenced to imprisonment ranging from four years and six months to 11 months.
Zhang Xiaojin, head of the SPP's fourth procuratorial office, said fraud in elderly care mainly focused on illegal fundraising and producing and selling shoddy products. In essence, the frauds are designed according to the needs and concerns of the elderly.
"The fraud groups often cheat seniors with different new concepts, and even use the emotional losses of the elderly who are living alone to carry out fraud," he said.
Zhang Xiaojin said more attention will also be paid to online fraud. Some criminals first infringe on personal information to set targeted traps, then use the internet to launder their illegal gains, he said.
The law on anti-online fraud will take effect in December, and will play a more prominent role in combating fraud against the elderly, he said.